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Rails to Trails(9 posts)

Rails to TrailsScot_Gore
Sep 11, 2003 10:39 AM
Story in the local paper today about some landowners winning a court case to re-claim a former railroad bed that one of our (many) rail to trails is on.

It's being appealed to the state supreme court. I hope the trail can be successfully defended. If this becomes precedance we'd probably end up numerous 1 and 2 mile private property gaps in our trail system. I enjoy our trail network and consider it a great asset to the state.

Others have thoughts or seen similiar actions.

Pretty scary...Fredrico
Sep 11, 2003 12:23 PM
Landowners adjacent to some of these trails might try to take them. But seems that if enough petitioners got together, they could enact legislation to save the trails as "transportation" right of ways, built "for the public good," re-working the old agreements made between the former property owners and railroads.

Current property owners could surely be made to feel greedy for taking away what so many enjoy.
Common law precedent:Alexx
Sep 11, 2003 4:28 PM
In British common law, it isn't possible to revoke access rights to a right-of-way, provided that it is till in use. This allows people to cross right through other people's properties, provided that they do not leave gates open, drop litter, etc. Many eastern states rely heavily on English common law, so an argument could be made on such grounds.
Common law precedent:M_Currie
Sep 11, 2003 5:59 PM
I know that this is true if the right of way is specifically applied to a piece of property. That is, access granted via a ROW is not revocable. In the case of an abandoned railway, I'm not sure it would apply if the ROW is not used by the state or municipality for access to its own property. But I would have thought that because the trails are public ways, the state or municipality in question could claim them, or perhaps retake them, under the principle of eminent domain, though they would then have to compensate the landowners. Even private utilities operating under public regulation can do this.

The town might be able to make a case for "adverse use" (squatter's rights, in essence)also, if the trail has been in existence long enough.

I once owned a large piece of land which had been assembled ouot of numerous parcels by a defunct woolen mill, and on which there were a number of rather odd deed conditions, rights of way, etc. One parcel included a right of way for a railroad, but contained an explicit right of reversion if the railroad abandoned it. That would have presented an interesting problem (as it happens, the railroad still runs). I think the question would come down to whether conversion from rail to trail constitutes abandonment, which I believe was what the far-sighted property owner envisioned back in the 19th century. If it does, the town would have to take it again. If it doesn't, the landowners lose.
Single-track/cyclo-cross over the easement!filtersweep
Sep 12, 2003 5:15 AM
I don't think there can be any "tresspassing" over an easement.

Also- I'd assume this is for converted use. There are all sorts of situations where ancient law is "modified" to accommodate modern use- meaning a trail would hold the equivalent status as a rail line.

Frankly, I'd HATE to have crazy snowmobilers flying all over the place where I lived... especially in that area on MN.
re: Rails to TrailsBike Nut
Sep 12, 2003 5:35 AM
A similar case went through the Pennsylvania Court System with the Pa. Supreme Court refusing to hear the adjacent landowners appeal of lower court rulings in favor of the trail. The landowners appeal to the US Supreme Court is filed under Docket Number 02-1792 and is scheduled for Conference on September 29.
But they should be compensated for the landKristin
Sep 12, 2003 6:12 AM
I hope that land owners don't decide to take back the property, since that would be really back for society. Hopefully people don't get their panties so much in a bunch that they can't see that. But the land owners originally lended free use of their property to the railroad and they were suposed to get that land back. When the states decided to turn the rails into trails, did anyone compensate the owners for the property? They should be compensated.
Are you sure they weren't?MisJG
Sep 12, 2003 7:49 AM
The deal with the railroads was made back in the 1800s. Don't you think the families were compensated then? Seems like the descendents of the people who made the original deals want to 'double-dip' and be compensated again. Why would the state have to pay the railroads for the rights-of-way if the property had been free to the railroads in the first place? Here's how I see it:

If the railroads didn't technically own the land, how could they sell it to the state? They should have to give that money back to the state who in turn can give it to the land owners as compensation for the land. Sign a new right-of-way deal or whatever and go forward out of the 1800s.

How can the one guy say he needs the trial property to access his land on the other side. What did he do when the railroad was there? Fly over? The whole thing is childish and the 'landowners' should be cited for blocking the trail. If you have a dispute with your landlord, you still have to pay the rent until a court of law says you don't! While the court currently says they own the land, the barricades were up before the court decision.

Why can't we all just get along?

PS. The people were ok with trains going by, but a snowmobile disturbs them? (or even a quiet bicycle, since this is RBR after all)

Gimme a break!
I'm sure he can get to his landScot_Gore
Sep 12, 2003 12:16 PM
I suspect that the claim of "I need the trail land to get to my property" translates to "it's much easier for me to get to my property down the state maintained paved trail than to use my rutted and washed out dirt driveway", but hey, I could be reading too much into it.